Club volleyball is a volleyball program for girls and boys. The girls' season runs from approximately mid November through end of June. The boys' season runs from August to January, with a small spring season for 14 and younger while high school is going on. Teams will practice approximately 2-4x per week and play anywhere from 6-12 tournaments on weekends, depending on the club. Some clubs also offer weight training and optional skills clinics and open gyms play as part of their package. Club volleyball is not a league where a team plays weekly matches against other clubs.
A typical club team ranges from 10-12 players. Clubs may offer multiple teams at each age group. The more popular clubs may have close to 100 players trying out at the more popular age groups. A majority of the players that want to play club volleyball can find a team. There are things that a player and parent can do that will increase the chances of getting an offer from a club team. These things will be discussed later.
The common ages for club volleyball are 13U through 17U. The most popular age groups are at 14U and 15U. Many clubs offer teams for 12U & 18U.
The age cutoff date for eligibility is July 1. Google "usa volleyball age chart" to find the current year's matrix.
Players may ‘play up’ according to the rules. Many clubs are reluctant to allow it, except for the 12U level. Most club directors are trying to field the strongest team possible at each age group, so they don't want their strongest 15U player to play on their 16U team for example. Talk to the club director if you feel it best for your player to play up.
Some clubs also allow a player to ‘play down’ if they is close to the age cutoff (age waiver). USA Volleyball Clubs are not permitted to waiver players down, however AAU clubs may do so at their discretion. Clubs are reluctant to allow players to ‘play down’ because it significantly limits the number of tournaments that the team may enter. The most common reason for a club to allow players to play up or down is to fill the roster of a team.
Most clubs offer multiple teams at the popular age groups. As the players get older, it is harder to make a team. For example, it is far more difficult to make a 14U team than it is to make a 13U team.
AAU vs JVA vs AZ Region
These are all Sanctioning Organizations that host National Tournaments and Championships. They are also the main way a club provides insurance for the players. The Sanctioning body is sometimes associated with the level of play. This is like saying the Barcelona Football Club stinks because they don't play in the English Premiere league. Don't let people judge the quality of a club because of where they get their insurance, and don't judge a club as bad because they use a soccer reference in their analogy.
The 2 main sanctioning bodies that host volleyball tournaments in Arizona are Arizona Region Volleyball – part of USA Volleyball) and AAU (Amateur Athletic Union). A third organization JVA (Junior Volleyball Association).
AZ region imposes some restrictions on a player preventing them from playing for multiple clubs. Once a player commits to a club, AZ Region restricts them to only play for that club.
AAU does not force a player to commit to only 1 club. AAU team rosters can change for each tournament. Both organizations charge a membership fee, and AZ Region also charges a fee to tryout for a club. Clubs may enter teams into both AZ Region and AAU tournaments.
AAU offers competitive play, with far fewer costs and restrictions on players, coaches, and club directors.
The perception that AAU tournaments are mainly for beginners is not true. Both AZ Region and AAU will provide competitive tournaments for teams to compete.
JVA (Junior Volleyball Association) is a similar organization that primarily operates in the mid-west. They have the ability to offer a tournament that AZ Region and AAU teams can join. Some of the larger tournaments are switching to JVA because of the flexibility it gives them. Some examples of tournaments that are JVA include the West Coast Cup in California, and the Cactus Classic in Tucson.
Tournaments will be classified in 3 different categories based on skill level:
· Open – The best teams will play in Open tournaments. They will be far more competitive. Clubs will enter their top teams in open tournaments, if they feel the team is strong enough. Open tournaments will feature the best players in their age group.
· Club – Club level is not as competitive as Open level. The top teams 'should' not play in club level tournaments. It is up to the club director to shooe which group they enter, so nothing is in place to stop the occasional 'sandbagging' team from entering.
· Mixed – Both Open teams and Club teams may enter.
The AZ region offers: Open, Championship (the middle of open & Club- you may see this called American), and Club
There is a large variance in cost for club volleyball. Before you tryout, make sure you know the club fee. Clubs do not always post their club fees on their websites. Tryouts also involve a tryout fee, and usually offer discounts for signing up early, and signing up online ($35-$100). Club fees will range between $500 to $4000+, depending on the club and team.
Travel and hotels are additional and not included in the club fee. Some clubs also charge extra for uniforms. Compare the entire package when considering cost. Understand where you will be travelling. For example, a hotel in D.C. for President's Day can run close to $375 per night with a 2-3 night required stay, while a Hampton Inn in York might cost $100 per night. Some clubs also schedule tournaments that involve airfare.
Do not expect that your club fee buys you playing time at a tournament. Most clubs have a published guideline for playing time, but no club guarantees equal playing time for all players.
Many teams will have multiple team bonding events. Your player will most likely become very close with the players on the team.
Expect tournaments to take all day, and expect tournaments to take up a majority of February & March & April. Plan on having a tournament on Grandma’s birthday or some other traditional family event that you have not missed in 15 years (Such as Easter Sunday). Holiday weekends are usually tournament weekends!
Understand the philosophy of the head coach with regards to playing time and practice time. Every team will have girls that don’t play much. If that does not sit well with you, be sure to understand what you are accepting.
Plan on getting to know the other parents on the team very well. Just as the players will bond with their teammates, parents will also bond during the season. Sometimes parents can have fun with each other, and other times parents can cause extra drama. Be ready for both.
Cost - Expect clubs to raise fees as they need to plan for more multi-day events, which means more travel costs for coaches, and higher entry fees. Some clubs may plan installments for payments because so much is unknown.
Spectating - All venues will have a spectator capacity limit. Some may allow parents, some may not. Most clubs or teams will have a streaming option so parents can watch from home or from the Hotel bar/lobby.